IT was a brief snatch of an interview with Tyrone joint-manager Brian Dooher after the Killing in Killarney, but what was shown on RTÉ’s ‘League Sunday’ was sufficient.
“A lot of soul-searching to do, both individually and collectively as players and management, seeing what we can do. Long and short of it, it wasn’t good enough.”
Last night in Garvaghey, Tyrone began their preparations to face Ulster champions Cavan in Omagh. They have roughly three and a half weeks before the game. Mercifully, they will be meeting a squad just as low on recent confidence as themselves, the Breffnimen having been relegated to Division Four at the weekend.
No doubt, the video tape of Sunday was brought out and the six goals for Kerry would have been highlighted.
Since Mickey Harte stepped down as manager of Tyrone, the borrowed talk coming from Planet Punditry has reached a common consensus. Tyrone, with their fleet of forwards, just need to let off the handbrake, add some swash to that buckle, take the safety catch off the cannons and get the six-shooters hot for some action. Glory would surely follow.
And during their first league game back against Donegal, there were signs that Tyrone were trying to get the ball to their forwards faster. It was the same against Monaghan and Armagh. The plan was a bit rough around the edges, but you could see something was in the works.
Until Saturday, in Killarney, when things fell apart spectacularly. And it’s then that you realise that winning teams are built from the defence up.
Tyrone haven’t won at this venue since 2003, when Dooher himself was playing and scored a point.
The back six that day read as follows: Ryan McMenamin, Collie Holmes, Mickey McGee; Conor Gormley, Gavin Devlin, Philip Jordan. There were the makings of a backline to win league and All-Ireland titles with.
But on Saturday, the Tyrone backline were shredded. A breakdown of the six goals shows up the individual and collective failures.
And what will get most attention in the reviews are mistakes that any Under-12 manager starts off with when coaching defenders – stay goalside of your man, and always know where he is. Don’t ‘ball watch’ in other words.
GOAL ONE: Kerry’s Dara Moynihan skips past Cormac Munroe. His clever handpass sails over Ronan McNamee, who is marking in front. He tries to get back and ends up conceding a penalty by shoving David Clifford from behind. Clifford plants the penalty.
GOAL TWO: From Niall Morgan’s kickout, Gavin Crowley gathers and immediately gives Gavin White a quick handpass. White notes Morgan off his line and with remarkable confidence has a dig that bounces just in front of the goal line before hitting the net. It was a measured kick of supreme skill.
GOAL THREE: Paul Geaney gives a crossfield ball. Clifford is being double-marked by McNamee and the retreating Frank Burns. Clifford still wins it and gives the instant handpass to Sean O’Shea, who skips inside the Tyrone cover. But despite Clifford being double-teamed for the first ball, nobody chases him as he takes the return in front of goal. Another handpass to Moynihan and he lashes to the net.
GOAL FOUR: Mike Breen passes out of defence to the completely unmarked Stephen O’Brien. He travels unbothered for far too long before delivering a handpass that plays O’Shea in on goal after performing a cutback that loses his marker Conor Meyler. Geaney makes a supporting run in a straight line from the 45m line and nobody picks him up. O’Shea transfers to Geaney to slot home past Morgan.
GOAL FIVE: Geaney is unmarked on the right wing and plays a ball infield to Paudie Clifford just as Tyrone defender Michael McKernan comes across. When the ball is played, McKernan forgets about Geaney and watches the play. The ball is then switched by David Clifford to Geaney, who has continued his run with nobody picking him up. He thumps to the net even though Morgan gets a hand to the shot.
GOAL SIX: A long ball in from Breen. Morgan comes out and tries to get his fist to it as Tommy Walsh is lurking. The intention is correct but he doesn’t get enough knuckle on it and it bounces kindly to substitute Jack Barry, who rolls it home.
So there is the evidence. There may well have been a few Tyrone players with red faces during the team analysis session.
A BIT of news for you.
This weekend, there is but one game of note in men’s competition. Some weeks you can simply be drowned by the volume of stuff across football and hurling, and that’s before you get into ladies’ football, camogie and the thriving rounders scene right now – of which we might be due a piece on this most curious of GAA sports that has a fairly enthusiastic knot of participants along the border counties.
But for now, Derry will be out in action this weekend, in Croke Park no less, as they take on John Maughan’s Offaly.
Gaelic football is a small world, but there will be a curious pairing on the sideline. Twenty years ago, Fermanagh thought they were onto something. They had been building for a few years under Pat King and had landed an All-Ireland ‘B’ before pushing Ulster champions Armagh all the way in the 2000 provincial semi-final.
When King stepped down, they managed to land Maughan, who had experience of bringing a Munster title to Clare and had been the main force behind the Mayo revival. He stayed for just a year but one of his key players in that time was Rory Gallagher, now the Derry manager.
Anyway, there is still a little bit of to-ing and fro-ing to do between the GAA and the Irish government, but it seems increasingly likely that spectators will be allowed to attend this game as a pilot scheme.
The figure we are hearing is 2,400 inside the ground, with 2,000 tickets going on sale.
To be honest, in this job, not having supporters in the ground has been fairly eerie. The benefits (lack of traffic, being able to hear what management and players are saying to each other) have barely outweighed the drawbacks of being at games devoid of atmosphere.
At the end of the day, most of us enjoy the ‘last of the choc ices’ scenes around the games as much as the actual contest itself.
Already at Euro 2020, you can see how fans make sport. Soccer had become utterly dreadful to watch without fans. But, from the Scottish fans singing, we can see just how you don’t need big numbers to make a game feel like an occasion
The All-Ireland finals were depressing affairs to be present at, as novel as they were.